The Shark Trust is launching its No Limits? campaign today in response to the crisis posed by unlimited and escalating shark fishing pressure. With no catch limits set for many shark species, landings have soared over the past decade, placing huge pressure on shark populations. The Trust’s No Limits? campaign highlights the urgent need to introduce science-based catch limits for Blue Sharks, Shortfin Mako, Tope, smoothhounds and catsharks – species accounting for over 97% of reported Atlantic shark landings.
Europe is a significant global shark fishing power with three EU Member States among the world’s top twenty shark fishing nations. The Shark Trust’s No Limits? campaign addresses the alarming impact of these unrestricted landings, which amount to hundreds of thousands of tonnes, representing over 6.5 million sharks from the Atlantic in 2012 alone. No Limits? appeals to the public to support the adoption of science-based catch limits by signing an online campaign petition urging governments to act before it’s too late, and today’s commercial shark species follow other previously abundant Atlantic shark stocks into collapse.
“The EU fleet is responsible for around 40% of reported global shark landings, and 88% of that catch comes from Atlantic waters,” said Ali Hood, Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust. “Reported landings of Blue Shark by the EU fleet have almost tripled since 2003, to approximately 100,000 tonnes in 2012, actual mortality will be far higher. With no catch limits in place, it is imperative that the countries responsible for these landings, and their management, stop uncontrolled shark fishing now.”
Overfishing has so severely reduced Porbeagle, Spiny Dogfish (Spurdog), Angelshark and Common Skate populations that they are now listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered in the Northeast Atlantic.
“Experts agree that sharks and their relatives face a far higher risk of extinction than most other vertebrates. We now believe that a quarter of all sharks, skates and rays are threatened”, said Sarah Fowler, Shark Trust Trustee. “It’s hard to believe that European fishermen almost everywhere can catch as many of these shark species as they want, irrespective of fish size and age. Limiting shark catches contributes to the sustainable future of coastal communities, as well as sharks.”
The EU has, in recent years, begun to address a legacy of over-exploitation, with the UK strongly championing the Community Plan of Action for Sharks (2009) and the adoption last year of the revised EU Shark Finning Regulation. The Shark Trust now calls on the UK government to take a stand within the EU for the adoption of science-based catch limits for all unmanaged species.
Ali Hood concluded, “No Limits? is a campaign not only for the UK but for all the citizens of Europe; the Shark Trust believes that, when the public realise the sheer scale of shark mortality, they will want to add their voice – No Limits? No Future!”
To sign the petition to stop uncontrolled shark fishing, click here.
The life of a Great White Shark
The great white shark, known scientifically as Carcharodon carcharias, embodies the apex predator of the ocean. This majestic creature’s life is a testament to survival, adaptability, and the intricate balance of the marine ecosystem.
Born in the waters off coastal regions, a great white shark begins its life as a pup within the safety of nurseries, typically found in warm, shallow waters. The pups, measuring around 5 feet in length at birth, are immediately equipped with an innate instinct for survival.
As they grow, great whites embark on a journey, venturing into deeper and cooler waters, often covering vast distances across the ocean. These apex predators are perfectly adapted hunters, relying on their impressive senses to detect prey. Their acute sense of smell, aided by specialized sensory organs known as ampullae of Lorenzini, helps detect the faintest traces of blood in the water from several miles away.
Feeding primarily on seals, sea lions, and other marine mammals, great whites are known for their powerful jaws lined with rows of razor-sharp teeth. Their hunting techniques often involve stealth, utilizing their streamlined bodies to approach prey from below and striking with incredible speed and force.
Despite their fearsome reputation, great whites play a crucial role in maintaining the health of marine ecosystems. As top predators, they help regulate the population of prey species, preventing overpopulation that could disrupt the balance of the food chain.
Reproduction among great white sharks is a slow and careful process. Females reach sexual maturity between 12 and 18 years of age, while males mature earlier, around 9 to 10 years old. Mating occurs through complex courtship rituals, with females giving birth to a small number of live pups after a gestation period of about 12 to 18 months.
However, the life of a great white shark is not without challenges. Human activities, including overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction, pose significant threats to their population. Additionally, despite their formidable presence, great whites are vulnerable and face dangers from entanglement in fishing gear and accidental bycatch.
Despite these challenges, great white sharks continue to inspire awe and fascination among scientists and nature enthusiasts. Their presence in the ocean serves as a reminder of the delicate balance and interconnectedness of marine life, emphasizing the need for conservation efforts to protect these magnificent creatures for future generations to admire and study.
Want to learn more about sharks? Visit The Shark Trust website: www.sharktrust.org
Book Review: Sea Mammals
This is a book packed with information about some of the most iconic and charismatic marine species. I have a particular soft spot for the pinnipeds, seals and sea lions, due to some incredible diving encounters over the years. So these were the pages I first turned to.
Once picked up this book is hard to put down. Polar Bears, Narwhal, Sea Otters, manatees, whales and dolphins adorn the pages with beautiful photographs and illustrations. Each turn of the page lures you in to discover more about a species you love, one you want to learn more about, some you have never heard of and even includes the details of fascinating animals that are sadly now extinct.
I think what I love most about this book is how it is organised. Rather than simply lump the animals into taxonomic groupings, they are put into chapters that tell you a story about them. Whether it is the story of their evolution, how they were discovered, their biology, behaviour or need for conservation. Once you have decided on an animal to delve deeper into, each species has its own story, as well as key information about size, diet, distribution, habitat and conservation status.
There is plenty to enjoy in this delightful book. Plenty to learn too. As the cold dark nights draw in, I can see myself delving into this book time and time again. This is a perfect gift for anyone that loves the ocean and its inhabitants. Or just treat yourself.
What the publisher says:
From the gregarious sea otter and playful dolphins to the sociable narwhal and iconic polar bear, sea mammals are a large, diverse, and increasingly precious group. In this book, Annalisa Berta, a leading expert on sea mammals and their evolution, presents an engaging and richly illustrated introduction to past and present species of these remarkable creatures, from the blue whale and the northern fur seal to the extinct giant sperm whale, aquatic sloth, and walking sea cow.
The book features more than 50 individual species profiles, themed chapters, stunning photographs, and specially commissioned paleo-illustrations of extinct species. It presents detailed accounts of these mammals’ evolutionary path, anatomy, behavior, habitats, and conservation. And because these are key species that complete many food chains and have the widest influence of all sea life, the book also offers insights into a broad variety of marine worlds today and in the future.
About the Author:
Annalisa Berta is professor emerita of biology at San Diego State University. A specialist in the anatomy and evolutionary biology of marine mammals, especially baleen whales, she formally described a skeleton of the early pinniped Enaliarctos. She is the author of Return to the Sea: The Life and Evolutionary Times of Marine Mammals and the editor of the award-winning Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises: A Natural History and Species Guide.
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Published: 26th September, 2023
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